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Baldelli's slam goes wasting for TB

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Michael Cuddyer made sure Nick Punto's grand
slam helped the Minnesota Twins to a victory.

Tampa Bay wasted Rocco Baldelli's slam, though.

Cuddyer hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning and Punto
hit his first career grand slam, leading Minnesota to a 7-5 win
over the Devil Rays on Thursday.

Baldelli's grand slam, also the first of his career, tied it at
5 in the eighth for the Devil Rays, who have lost 12 of 17 since
moving a season-high two games over .500 on July 3.

"When you catch up and score four runs, you think you'd have
the momentum," Baldelli said. "We couldn't get the job done."

The Devil Rays deflated the Metrodome crowd with Baldelli's
homer, but Cuddyer connected on an 0-2 pitch from Travis Harper
(2-2) leading off the eighth to send the Twins to their fourth
straight victory.

"We were resilient enough to hang in there and stay in the game
and have somebody come up with a big hit," Cuddyer said.

Cuddyer and Punto are the latest heroes for a Twins team that's
slowly breaking out of an offensive funk. On Wednesday, the Twins --
powered by Henry Blanco, Justin Morneau, Lew Ford and Luis Rivas --
had a season-high 17 hits against Tampa Bay.

"A different person every day," Cuddyer said.

After Cuddyer's homer, Minnesota added another run on an error
by right fielder Jose Cruz Jr.

Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 27th save in 28 chances.

After Johan Santana pitched seven dominant innings for the
Twins, Punto's slam in the bottom of the seventh gave them a 5-1
lead. But Juan Rincon gave up two walks and a hit in the eighth
before Baldelli connected, wasting a masterful performance by
Santana.

"It hurt to see Santana walk away without the win," Punto
said.

Rincon entered the game with a 1.88 ERA, but allowed multiple
earned runs for the first time since May 9 at Oakland.

J.C. Romero (5-1) got out of the eighth and earned the win.

The victory gave the Twins a sweep in the two-game series
against the Devil Rays, who've lost six straight road games and
three in a row overall.

"We're trying to get something going again," Baldelli said.
"It's just not happening."

Santana, who is 6-2 in his last nine starts, gave up only three
hits, including a solo homer by Geoff Blum. The left-hander struck
out 10 batters for the seventh time this season -- the sixth in his
last seven starts.

Santana also has pitched at least seven innings in his last nine
starts.

He appeared to have another win in the bag when Punto's grand
slam off Jesus Colome -- a 416-foot drive that just cleared the
right-field wall -- broke open a 1-1 game.

With two on and one out, Stewart's single dropped in front of a
diving Cruz to load the bases. Punto, who's started the last three
games for the Twins in place of ailing shortstop Cristian Guzman,
jumped on the first pitch from Colome for his second home run of
the season.

Punto said he anticipated the fastball.

"I figured he'd try to get ahead," he said.

But the Devil Rays answered when Rincon walked Rey Sanchez to
lead off the eighth, gave up a single to Carl Crawford and walked
pinch-hitter Tino Martinez to load the bases for Baldelli.

He then sent Rincon's 2-2 delivery into the left-center seats to
bring Romero out of the bullpen and a chorus of boos from the
crowd.

"(Rincon) has good stuff," Baldelli said. "So I was trying to
wait and see the pitch and put it in play."

Tampa Bay starter Dewon Brazelton held Minnesota hitless through
five innings as the Devil Rays took a 1-0 lead. But he tired in the
sixth, throwing 28 pitches in the inning.

"Other than that, I'm as pleased as you can be with a loss,"
Brazelton said.

Santana and Brazelton were relatively even through four innings
until Blum's two-out homer in the fifth. He lifted a 1-1 pitch just
over the left-field wall for his fifth home run of the season to
five Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.

Jacque Jones' RBI groundout tied it in the sixth.

Game notes
The Twins activated 1B Doug Mientkiewicz (wrist) from the
disabled list and optioned C Rob Bowen to Double-A New Britain. ...
Guzman missed his third consecutive game with back spasms and to
mourn the death of his grandfather, who died early Thursday
morning, manager Ron Gardenhire said. ... Gardenhire rested CF
Torii Hunter, but inserted him as a pinch-runner in the seventh. He
stayed in the game in center. ... Tampa Bay has been outscored
29-10 in its last three road games.